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Mooney Falls along the Havasu Falls Trail: The Most Thrilling Hike in Arizona

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Mooney Falls, located along the iconic Havasu Falls Trail, is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Arizona, with a turquoise curtain of water spilling 200 feet down a rocky red cliffside in the Grand Canyon. While Mooney Falls is absolutely gorgeous, you DEFINITELY have to work to reach its base—after hiking 10 miles, you’ll then need to crawl through two caves and climb down an incredibly steep cliffside, with nothing to hold on to other than muddy chains and slippery foot holds. If you want to experience this adrenaline-pumping adventure for yourself, here’s everything you need to know about hiking to Mooney Falls. 

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Man climbing down a cliffside with Mooney Falls in the background along the Havasu Falls hike
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Before we dive into the nuts and bolts of hiking Mooney Falls, it’s important to note that this isn’t exactly a trail that you just wake up and decide to hike one day. 

Woman standing with hiking poles and looking down into the Grand Canyon along the Havasu Falls hike in Arizona

It’s located along the Havasu Falls hike (also referred to as the Havasupai or Havasupai Falls Trail), which requires an extremely competitive—and expensive—permit that you need to reserve in advance. Plus, it’s located in a remote part of Arizona in the Havasupai Indian Reservation and is typically hiked as a multi-day backpacking trip. So yeah—a bit of advance planning is required!

About Mooney Falls

Length

From the Hilltop Trailhead at the rim of the Grand Canyon all the way to the base of Mooney Falls, the trail is 20.4 miles roundtrip. 

However, most visitors typically hike to Mooney Falls on the second or third day of their backpacking adventure along the Havasu Falls trail. Accordingly, most people will start their hike to Mooney Falls from the Havasu Falls campground—meaning the hike to Mooney Falls is usually two miles or less, depending on where your campsite is within the campground. 

Smiling couple sitting in a tent along the Havasu Creek in the Havasu Falls Campground in Arizona

My husband, Justin’s and my campsite was right near the rim of Mooney Falls—meaning the hike to and from Mooney Falls was just about a 0.3 mile hike roundtrip from our tent! 

Alternatively, some visitors choose, instead, to get a permit to hike to and stay in the Havasupai Lodge in the village of Supai, which is located on the floor of the Grand Canyon and is believed to be the most remote town in the United States. From this lodge, it’s about a 4.6 mile round trip hike to the base of Mooney Falls.

Elevation gain

From the Hilltop Trailhead, you’ll drop about 2,500 feet of elevation to the base of Mooney Falls—meaning, of course, you’ll need to climb up that on the return trip! 

Woman with trekking poles climbing up switchbacks in the Grand Canyon along the Havasu Falls trail in Arizona

From the Havasu Falls Campground, it’s about a 200 foot drop to the base of Mooney Falls. 

Difficulty

Given the relatively short distance and elevation gain from the campsite, you’d think that Mooney Falls would be an easy hike—nope! 

We’ll talk about this a bit more below, but Mooney Falls is definitely pretty technically challenging, requiring hikers to climb down an extremely steep cliff, using just chains, ropes, ladders, and small footholds, all while being pelted by the freezing cold mist of the waterfall.

Woman climbing down a wet ladder along the Mooney Falls Trail in Havasupai in Arizona

Permit or pass required?

Yes, as mentioned above, you are required to get a permit to hike this trail. Lucky for you, we wrote a whole guide with everything you need to know about getting a permit for the Havasupai Falls hike.

Dog-friendly?

No, you’ll need to leave your furry best friend at home for this one! 

Trail map

Couple holding hands in the plunge pool in front of Mooney Falls along the Havasu Falls hike in Arizona

How to Get to the trailhead for Mooney Falls

The Havasu Falls trail leaves from the Hilltop Trailhead, located here in Northern Arizona along the rim of the Grand Canyon.

This trail is quite remote—other than the town of Supai, which the trail passes through along the floor of the Grand Canyon, the closest towns of any kind are the teeny tiny villages of Peach Springs, about an hour and 15 minutes southwest of the trailhead, and Seligman, about an hour and forty minutes southeast of the trailhead.

Parking lot at the Hilltop Trailhead along the Havasu Falls hike in Arizona

Given Havasu Falls’ popularity, many visitors actually fly to get in to experience the trail. So if you fall in that camp, your best bet will be to either fly to Las Vegas’ Harry Reid International Airport (three hours and 45 minutes west of the trailhead) or Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport (four and a half hours south) and rent a car to get the rest of the way there. 

You’ll need to pick up your paperwork at the Grand Canyon Caverns Inn in Seligman before you head to the trailhead either the day before or before 12 PM on the day of your hike (be sure to check the office hours on the Havasupai Reservations website!). 

Classic cars in front of Grand Canyon Caverns Inn in Seligman, Arizona

Most visitors opt to come the day before and stay at the Grand Canyon Caverns Inn for the night, given it’s the most convenient accommodations to the trailhead. This way, they can get a bright and early start on the hike.

What to expect along the Mooney Falls Trail

To get to Mooney Falls, you’ll need to hike for 10 miles along the Havasu Falls Trail from the Hilltop Trailhead on the rim of the Grand Canyon down to its floor, through the town of Supai, and, finally, to the Havasu Falls Campground. 

Almost all hikers set up camp in the campground for the night and then head out to hike down Mooney Falls on either their second or third day of their trip.  If you want to learn more about the first portion of the hike, be sure to check out our post all about the Havasu Falls hike

Couple laying down in a tent along the Havasu Creek in the Havasu Falls Campground in Havasupai, Arizona

The Havasu Falls Campground stretches for a mile from the northern section of Havasu Falls all the way to the rim of Mooney Falls. There’s no designated campsites, so you’re welcome to set up your tent or hammock anywhere on the sandy portion of the ground. 

Tip: If you want your pick of campsites, be sure to get to the campground early. We got there around 11:30 AM and had a REALLY hard time finding a decent site. I can’t imagine how challenging it was for people who arrived much later! 

To reach Mooney Falls, you’ll walk along the flat path that winds through the campground and follow the trailhead sign towards the left of the waterfall’s rim.

Woman standing at the Mooney Falls overlook alogn the Havasupai Trail in Arizona

The first portion of the Mooney Falls hike isn’t bad at all—you’ll follow a well-worn path into the cliffside down several hundred yards. Along this trail, you’ll pass an offshoot to the right with stairs that lead up to an awesome overlook of Mooney Falls. This is a great alternative if you’re uncomfortable with heights and don’t want to do the full descent down to the waterfall’s base.

If you want to keep going, you’ll keep descending down the trail and pass a rather unnerving “Descend at your own risk” sign. This is where things get interesting! 

"Descend at your own risk" sign in front of Mooney Falls in Havasupai Trail in Arizona

From here, you’ll pass through two cave-like tunnels. 

The first tunnel is about a hundred or so feet long—initially, it looks a bit sketchy, but there are large steps carved into the rock that are easy to climb down if you go slowly and carefully.

Stairs carved into a cave along the Mooney Falls hike in Havasupai, Arizona

There’s a few “windows” in the cave that let light in, but I’d definitely recommend packing a headlamp if you plan on hiking up or down this trail early in the morning or late in the evening. For example, if you’re planning on hiking the extra 16 miles from the rim of Mooney Falls to the Confluence of Havasu Creek with the Colorado River, I’d definitely recommend starting the hike down Mooney Falls as close to sunrise as possible. 

Once you exit the tunnel, you’ll have an absolutely epic view of Mooney Falls, with the unique travertine rock formations along the cliffsides framing the impossibly turquoise water of the falls. 

Travertine rock formations framing a man looking at Mooney Falls along the Mooney Falls hike in Havasupai, Arizona

Continuing on, you’ll go through another short tunnel and eventually get down to the final sketchy descent to the base of Mooney Falls. 

From here, you’ll need to climb down a REALLY steep portion of the cliffside, using footholds, ropes, chains, and ladders—all of which are being constantly soaked by the chilly mist from Mooney Falls. 

Blessedly, the first part of this section is actually quite easy—there’s a series of large stairs so you can face Mooney Falls and easily see where you need to put your feet. 

Man climbing down a cliffside with chains in front of Mooney Falls in Havasupai, Arizona

However, after descending about 15 or so feet, you’ll need to turn around to face the cliffside to go down the rest of the way, making it difficult to see where you should be placing your feet.

I’m not a fan of heights and was pretty terrified of this section before we went—and to be honest, it was about as scary as I imagined it! If you (or if someone above you on the climb) slipped while climbing down Mooney Falls, you would almost certainly fall down the cliffside and be seriously injured or a LOT worse. Plus, if you’re on the shorter side, like (I’m 5’4”), it can be a bit challenging to reach some of the footholds, even if you can see them. 

Hikers climbing down chains and ladders along the Mooney Falls hike in Havasupai, Arizona

All that being said, we made it down Mooney Falls just fine—and there’re plenty of folks who don’t find the descent scary at all! 

Once you’re at the base of the pool, you can gaze up at the water pounding 200 feet down the cliffside and swim in the water. It was definitely on the chilly side when we visited in April, but I have to imagine that if you’re visiting in the warmer months, it feels absolutely heavenly! 

As noted above, many hikers decide to continue past Mooney Falls to either Beaver Falls, a series of tiered pools and waterfalls (which is about a six mile round trip hike from its base) or to the Confluence (which is about a sixteen mile hike). 

Woman walking through turquoise water in Beaver Falls along the Havasupai Trail in Arizona

Otherwise, once you’re done enjoying Mooney Falls, you’ll climb up the same way that you came. When you’re ascending, it’s a LOT easier to see where to put your hands and feet and, given that you have the descent under your belt, it also should feel a bit less scary! 

Tips for Hiking Mooney Falls

Keep three points of contact at all times

This is the credo of rock climbing and it’s true here, too—make sure that three out of your four limbs are touching something on the rockwall at any given time while you’re climbing it! 

Wear gloves

We brought along some grippy gardening gloves to provide extra traction against the wet chains and ropes and they were DEFINITELY helpful. 

Man using chains to climb down a cliffside in front of Mooney Falls along the Havasupai Trail in Arizona

There is an ENORMOUS pile of gloves at both the beginning and the end of the chains section, left behind by other hikers if you want to use those instead. However, we’re glad we brought our own and didn’t have to dig through a pile of cold and muddy gloves right before the climb.

Friendly reminder to leave no trace and pack out everything you pack in, including your used gloves. If you don’t carry them out, someone from the Havasupai tribe—and ultimately, a helicopter—will have to! 

Have the taller person go first

If you’re hiking with at least one other person, have the taller person climb down the cliffside first. It’s easier for the taller person to find the footholds and they can help the shorter person figure out where to put their feet if they’re having a hard time. 

Couple holding hands in front of Mooney Falls in Havasupai, Arizona

Go there early and head back late

If I have one regret about hiking Mooney Falls, it would be climbing back up in the mid-afternoon, when it was quite busy. We had to wait for climbers making their way down before starting our ascent and, by the time we were clear to start going, there was a line of people behind us. This made me feel rushed to go up quickly—which, in turn, made me feel rushed and SUPER nervous. 

Woman with a backpack looking down at Mooney Falls in Havasupai, Arizona

You can avoid the crowds by going on the earlier or the later side—although be sure you still have plenty of light to make the climb! And even if there’s an ENORMOUS line behind you, just go slowly and carefully—they don’t want you to fall just as much just as you do! 

Treat Mooney Falls like a one way climb

Be sure to keep an eye out for hikers coming the opposite way and wait to start your climb until they finish.

While we were waiting to climb up Mooney Falls,  two hikers decided to climb down while all of the other hikers were ascending. On top of climbing down the sketchy cliffside, they also had to figure out how to climb over one another along the trail—which was unnecessarily dangerous for everyone involved. 

Mooney Falls cascading down a cliffside in Havasupai, Arizona

When to visit Mooney Falls

You can access Mooney Falls whenever the Havasu Falls hike is open, which is from February 1 through November 30 each year (provided you have a permit, of course!). The trail is always closed in December through January. 

There’s really no bad time to visit Mooney Falls, but if you’re hoping to thread the needle between weather that’s nice for swimming, but not overly hot, late April through May and September through early October are good bets. We hiked the Havasupai Trail in mid-April and, most of the days we were there, it was a little too cool for swimming in the water. 

Woman wearing a swimsuit looking at Fifty Foot Falls along the Havasu Falls Trail in Havasupai, Arizona

I would generally avoid getting a Havasupai Falls permit for June through August. Not only can it get super hot here (as in, well over 100 degrees hot), but this is also monsoon season, which can turn the famously turquoise water a muddy brown color and can cause flash flooding. 

What to bring for hiking Mooney Falls

If you want a comprehensive list for EVERYTHING you need to bring along the Havasu Falls hike, check out this post. But here’s what we’d suggest bringing specifically for Mooney Falls:

Man using a Sawyer Squeeze to filter water into a Nalgene bottle along the Havasu Falls hike in Havasupai, Arizona
  • Swimsuit and towel
  • Hiking boots (his and hers)— If you’re planning on continuing on to Beaver Falls or the Confluence, I’d suggest bringing along hiking sandals, like our beloved Tevas (his and hers), given there’s LOTS of water crossings. However, I personally was SO happy to have the extra traction from my hiking boots on the slippery climb down Mooney Falls. 
  • Drybag—if you have any electronics you need to keep dry
Man hiking through water along the Havasu Falls hike in Havasupai, Arizona

There you have it—everything you need to know to climb down Mooney Falls! Do you have any questions about this trail? Let us know in the comments below! 

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